Office Visit: Dr. Ross Oberschlake by Arselia Gales, assistant editor

December 2021 | Source:

photography by Aliza Baran

Dentists spend most of their working hours inside their own practices, so they usually don’t get many opportunities to see what it’s like inside another doctor’s office. Dentaltown’s recurring Office Visit profile offers a chance for Townies to meet their peers, hear their stories and get a sense of how they practice.

Every year, Dentaltown asks readers to vote for their favourite products and services, then we tally the results and publish the full list of Townie Choice Awards winners in our December issue. (Check out this year’s roundup here.)

Out of all the readers who completed their ballots, we draw one person at random to win a special prize: $1,000 and the chance to appear on the cover of Dentaltown magazine as part of an Office Visit profile. This year’s winner, Dr. Ross Oberschlake of Hillcrest Family Dental in Waukesha, Wisconsin, is an active member on Dentaltown message boards and has shared more than 200 posts.

Oberschlake, who describes dentistry as the perfect blend of artistry and medicine, is a huge proponent of continuing education and met with Dentaltown founder Dr. Howard Farran on one of his recent trips to Arizona for a Spear Education event. Read on and see why that meeting was so special to him, why he enjoys composite work and what his goals are for his practice in the next four years.

You grew up in a small town—so small, in fact, that your father was one of only two doctors in town. How did you decide that dentistry was the career for you? My mother was an art teacher and my father is a veterinarian. I grew up drawing, sculpting and painting, as well as assisting my dad on emergency calls to farms or as another set of hands in surgery. As a child, I was drawn to veterinary medicine, but my dad encouraged me to explore all areas of medicine, including dentistry.

Our local dentist was equally as amazing as my father at what he did. Dentistry proved to be the perfect blend of artistry and medicine I was looking for. Over the years, I shadowed many medical specialties, but kept falling back to dentistry.

How do you think growing up in a small town has influenced how you practice today? Immediately after dental school, I practiced as an associate for almost four years in downtown Chicago. There were certainly some things I liked about it, but I much prefer a smaller-city feeling. In a smaller town, there can be a strong sense of community—when someone is in need, we want to help them out. That’s one of the main reasons why I wanted to be a dentist; I believe it’s one of the health professions where loyalty and trust by our patients is so strong. Dentists have the opportunity to see an entire family, from great-grandmother down to granddaughter.

You describe dentistry as a blend of artistry and medicine. How does this philosophy translate into your work? Creating beauty in every restoration is a personal goal of mine. Whether it is a Class I composite or full arch of porcelain, I want to make something look natural. I mentioned sculpting earlier; I get the opportunity to create tiny sculptures multiple times a day. When there’s a hole in a tooth, I try my best to sculpt it back into a tooth with my composite, not just fill the hole and make sure it occludes. I also enjoy doing my own diagnostic wax-ups. I believe it really helps me understand the case before starting it, and I have a better sense of what complications may arise as I am completing a case.

What are some of your favourite procedures? I’m a big fan of composite work. I think it stems from my mom’s artistic cultivation growing up. I love doing composite veneers as well as complex posterior composites. Statistically, I do fewer crowns than the average dentist, but I am very OK with that. Often I will see a new patient with a mouth full of moderate to large decay, and I prefer to restore them all with composite initially. Sure, the teeth may be best served with a crown, but if funds are an issue, I would rather treat five teeth instead of burning the patient’s budget on a single crown.

One very fun procedure I’ve started doing in the past couple of years is restoring full arches with injection molding. I’ve had some great success with it. One thing I love about composite is that the patient’s teeth are completely changed at the end of the appointment. You can even show them the “before” and “after” photos that day. It instills confidence in you and gives you the opportunity to show off your work instantly.

You said that continuing education is your passion. What do you enjoy the most about it? How often do you attend CE events or seminars? I do truly love taking CE. I’m involved in a few study clubs and certainly enjoy going to different seminars and workshops. I usually travel out of state at least once a year for CE. I’m sure you have heard that continuing education without implementation is just expensive entertainment, so I do try my best to apply what I learn. I am lucky to have an amazing team who is receptive to progress and is similarly drawn to education. If I am not progressing as a dentist every day, I feel like I’m doing a disservice to my patients and to the dentist I aspire to be.

You had the opportunity to meet Dr. Howard Farran during your recent trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, for a workshop at the Spear Education center. How did that come about? First of all, I was shocked that he would take the time out of his busy schedule to sit down and have dinner with me! From being active on Dentaltown and listening to countless of Howard’s podcasts, meeting him was something I always wanted to do.

I already had plans to be in Scottsdale for the Spear workshop, so when I was notified that I was going to be featured in Dentaltown magazine, I knew I had to ask if Howard would be available to meet. I was ecstatic when he said he’d love to meet up!

We discussed all kinds of things. If anyone has ever listened to one of Howard’s podcasts, you know that he’s great at conversation. He asked a lot of questions about my practice and the types of procedures I like to do. We touched on our families and raising children. We circled around to the economy and obviously there were some good jokes thrown in there.

Was it like a business meeting or a meeting among friends? A meeting among friends, for sure! One of the things Howard always talked about on his podcasts was how he would stay or meet with the some of the heaviest hitters in dentistry when he would take CE or lecture. I always thought that was so amazing, and that was one of the main reasons why I reached out to meet. I figured if I never asked, it would never happen. Once I took a seat at the table, it was as if he and I had known each other for a long time. Sure, we talked business, but that’s just what dentists do when they get together. I owe a lot to Howard for indirectly guiding me into the dentist I am today, so I really wanted to let him know that and thank him.

You were named one of Milwaukee Magazine’s Top Dentists in 2020. How do you think you earned that distinction? This is a pretty cool list to be on. General dentists and specialists are nominated by fellow colleagues. The dentists and specialists in my county have great camaraderie.

The specialists I refer to are quite amazing. Not only do they provide exceptional care to my patients but they also are so supportive to me. They never hesitate to help guide me on ways to remove a tooth, place an implant or negotiate canals. Their mentorship has been priceless.

What’s an average day like at your practice? A typical day is filled with composites and possibly a crown. A few times a month, I’ll have a root canal or extractions to complete, or work on a bigger case. I typically have one or two large fixed-prosthodontic or implant-prosthodontic cases in the works at a time.

I have one full-time hygienist and one part-time hygienist who work every other day. We see around one new patient a day. For new patients, we strive for a 90-minute comprehensive exam on the doctor’s side unless there is a large gap in the hygiene schedule, but we tell them not to expect a cleaning that day. This is our chance to show the new patient they made a great decision to partner with us to enhance their oral condition. It is a goal of ours to see emergency appointments that same day, so we frequently will see an emergency patient during the day. This is a great way to let our current patients know they are a priority and for new patients to know we can accommodate them in times of need. I keep my cellphone number on the answering machine so people can reach me at any time.

You perform a wide range of dental procedures, from full-mouth rehabilitations to endodontics and even some implants. Do you find that performing so many different procedures makes it hard to hone your craft? Growing up watching my dad treat all those different animals and perform all those different surgeries was inspiring. He is a lifelong learner, too. I remember him reading old textbooks before performing an obscure surgery and he would end up with a healthy animal and a happy owner. You hear the term “Super GP” thrown around now about general dentists who try to excel in a wide spectrum of procedures, and I think it is great. Like I said earlier, I love the specialists I work with, but sometimes our patients need us in an emergency in that instant. It’s great to be able to provide the service that day rather than giving them antibiotics and a referral slip.

One thing that only comes with experience is making sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you are passionate enough about dentistry, really make it a priority and find some specialists who are mentors and are willing to invest the time and money into hands-on continuing education. I believe that GPs can be proficient in as many procedures as they want.